‘Yes, sir.’ I always called him ‘sir.’
‘It opens that,’ and he tapped it sharply on the door of the cabinet. ’In the daytime it is always here,’ at which word he dropped it into his pocket again. ‘You see?—and at night under my pillow—you hear me?’
’You won’t forget this cabinet—oak—next the door—on your left—you won’t forget?’
’Pity she’s a girl, and so young—ay, a girl, and so young—no sense—giddy. You say, you’ll remember?’
‘It behoves you.’
He turned round and looked full upon me, like a man who has taken a sudden resolution; and I think for a moment he had made up his mind to tell me a great deal more. But if so, he changed it again; and after another pause, he said slowly and sternly—’You will tell nobody what I have said, under pain of my displeasure.’
‘Oh! no, sir!’
‘Except,’ he resumed, ’under one contingency; that is, in case I should be absent, and Dr. Bryerly—you recollect the thin gentleman, in spectacles and a black wig, who spent three days here last month—should come and enquire for the key, you understand, in my absence.’
So he kissed me on the forehead, and said—
‘Let us return.’
Which, accordingly, we did, in silence; the storm outside, like a dirge on a great organ, accompanying our flitting.
When we reached the drawing-room, I resumed my chair, and my father his slow and regular walk to and fro, in the great room. Perhaps it was the uproar of the wind that disturbed the ordinary tenor of his thoughts; but, whatever was the cause, certainly he was unusually talkative that night.
After an interval of nearly half an hour, he drew near again, and sat down in a high-backed arm-chair, beside the fire, and nearly opposite to me, and looked at me steadfastly for some time, as was his wont, before speaking; and said he—
‘This won’t do—you must have a governess.’
In cases of this kind I merely set down my book or work, as it might be, and adjusted myself to listen without speaking.
’Your French is pretty well, and your Italian; but you have no German. Your music may be pretty good—I’m no judge—but your drawing might be better—yes—yes. I believe there are accomplished ladies—finishing governesses, they call them—who undertake more than any one teacher would have professed in my time, and do very well. She can prepare you, and next winter, then, you shall visit France and Italy, where you may be accomplished as highly as you please.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
’You shall. It is nearly six months since Miss Ellerton left you—too long without a teacher.’
Then followed an interval.